Paul Manafort is making one last push to convince a federal judge that he “did not lie” to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office during his cooperation sessions — at least not on purpose.
In a Feb. 8 filing unsealed Wednesday, Manafort’s attorneys accuse prosecutors of inflating the importance of small details and inconsistencies in their client’s account.
“Based upon the pleadings, the record, and the proceedings before the Court at the sealed hearing, the OSC has not sustained its burden of proof to establish that Mr. Manafort lied during his interviews or grand jury appearances,” they write. “Importantly, given the breadth of the interviews and the very small number of issues raised by the OSC as problematic, all of which relate to immaterial matters, there is no basis to find Mr. Manafort lied.”
A transcript of a hearing on this matter was made public last week, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will issue a ruling on it during a sealed Wednesday afternoon hearing.
The main argument from Manafort’s team is that he tried to correct the record during his proffer sessions with prosecutors and did not intentionally try to mislead them with incorrect information.
One focus is the Aug. 2, 2016 meeting in Manhattan between Manafort and his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik, where a possible “Ukraine peace plan” beneficial to Russia’s government was discussed. Prosecutors said that Manafort told them that conversations about that plan began and ended with the Aug. 2 meeting, but later obtained evidence that it came up on multiple subsequent occasions.
“A fair reading of the record demonstrates that Mr. Manafort was attempting to recall the discussions as best he could and was not intentionally misleading the interrogators about the matter,” Manafort’s lawyers said, noting that Manafort confirmed the additional conversations in later proffer sessions and before the grand jury.
Manafort’s attorneys say that their client “told Kilimnik that the idea was crazy and the discussion ended” when he first proposed the peace plan in Aug. 2016. Manafort did not say, however, that the matter “‘never came up again,'” his attorneys claimed.
They added that relying on former Manafort protégé-turned-cooperating government witness Rick Gates’ account of the Manhattan meeting is unfair, given Gates’ “far from ideal” recall about it and “questionable” credibility. The sections explaining why Gates’ account shouldn’t be trusted are heavily redacted.
Manafort’s other work in Ukraine, including a 2018 poll he and Kilimnik worked on for a political candidate in the aftermath of Manafort’s indictment, has little to do with the government’s case, his lawyers said. The poll was just a “draft Ukrainian benchmark survey” that was never actually conducted rather than the “smoking gun” prosecutors made it out to be.
As for other matters Manafort allegedly lied about, his lawyers say he did not intentionally provide false information about a separate, unspecified Justice Department investigation. Nor did he seek to “establish any direct or indirect contact with the [Trump] administration,” as prosecutors have alleged.
Read the full filing below: